Anglican bishop ordinary election set for March

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Retiring Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Armed Forces Peter Coffin and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. Photo: Art Babych
Retiring Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Armed Forces Peter Coffin and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. Photo: Art Babych

The first election of an Anglican Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Armed Forces will be held March 5 followed by an installation ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa May 28.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, made the announcement after delivering the traditional New Year’s Day address at the cathedral January 1. Christ Church became the home of the Anglican Military Ordinariate in 1979.

“I look forward to being in this cathedral with you when we consecrate and install a new bishop ordinary,” the primate told the congregation. Until this year, primates appointed the bishop ordinary, but during the 2013 Joint Assembly with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Canon XXIII was adopted, enabling an election for the position.

Last November, the Anglican Military Ordinariate (AMO) sought nominations to fill the position. Nominations close Feb. 20, 2016.

Among those at the New Year’s Day service were retiring Bishop Ordinary Peter Coffin; the former chaplain general of the Canadian Forces, Padre John Fletcher; and several Anglican military chaplains, including Lt. Col, the Rev. Canon Michelle Staples, Command Chaplain for the Royal Canadian Navy and honorary assistant at the cathedral.

Coffin and his spouse, Deborah, both came from military families. He was rector at Christ Church Cathedral and dean of Ottawa for nine years before becoming bishop of the diocese of Ottawa from 1999 to 2007. The primate appointed him to the position of Anglican Bishop Ordinary in November 2004. Coffin’s task as bishop ordinary included serving as the Anglican member of the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC), which represents the chaplaincy to the federal government.

In thanking Coffin for his ministry with Anglican chaplains—both regular and reserve forces—Hiltz noted that as bishop ordinary he journeyed across Canada and to many places around the world where troops were deployed. “Peter, you’ve travelled extensively,” he said. “You’ve visited the flock within the Canadian Armed Forces family, and I know from conversations that I’ve had, not solicited, from chaplains, how much they appreciate your ministry.” The primate added, “You’ve been a good shepherd, an able administrator.”

The AMO chaplains provide pastoral support to members of the Canadian Armed Forces at home and abroad, while pastoral care for chaplains is the main responsibility of the bishop ordinary. “I am proud of our chaplains,” writes Coffin in his welcome on the AMO website.

“In the Regular Force there are 40 and in the Reserve Force there are 16, at last count, which means that our church contributes significantly to the chaplaincy of the Canadian Forces—approximately 22%.”

Hiltz said that as Coffin prepares for his retirement and reaches “that magic age when he must retire as a bishop,” he worked very hard to “get provisions in place that the AMO needs for the election of a new bishop ordinary.”

“So we look forward to an election of a bishop ordinary on March 5, and then I look forward to being in this cathedral with you on May 28 when we consecrate and install a new bishop ordinary,” said the primate. “But in the meantime, from my heart and from the heart of this church of Peter Coffin…much love and much gratitude. You’ve been held within the Canadian Forces family with immense respect.”

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Art is the former editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

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